The College of Wooster football team didn't allow a touchdown for the first time since 2011, but a Gabe Philhower 27-yard field goal with :18 remaining was the difference, as Ohio Wesleyan University squeaked out a 9-7 win over the Fighting Scots on Saturday afternoon at Selby Stadium in Delaware, Ohio.
Ohio Wesleyan (1-1, 1-0 North Coast Athletic Conference) took over with 4:46 remaining on its own 16-yard line, and strung together the game-winning 14-play, 74-yard drive. Prior to Philhower's third field goal of the contest, Ohio Wesleyan nearly went up by five, as quarterback Jax Harville attempted to find Deji Adebiyi in the end zone, but senior Derrick Florence broke up the pass while playing man coverage and giving up seven inches in height to the Battling Bishops' wideout.
While Philhower's golden foot was the difference in the scoring column, Wooster's (1-2, 0-2 NCAC) dominance when it came to pass rushing emerged as one of the biggest factors in the game. Wooster's nine sacks came one shy of matching the single-game program record, and the Scots held the Bishops' to negative two yards rushing.
Junior D'Andre Brown knocked Harville for a 7-yard loss on a second-and-11 play for Wooster's first sack of the day early in the second quarter, and that potentially knocked Ohio Wesleyan from the cusp of field goal range.
Next, classmate Christian Santos knifed into the backfield and brought down Harville for a 9-yard loss in the final 30 seconds of the opening half, but Philhower was able to salvage the 10-play, 48-yard drive with a 20-yard field goal as time ran out to cut Wooster's lead to 7-6.
In the third quarter, Ohio Wesleyan's first three drives featured a third-down sack by Wooster. In déjà vu fashion Brown's 10-yard sack on the Battling Bishops' second drive knocked Ohio Wesleyan out of field goal range, and sophomore Cam Pollard broke up a pass on the ensuing fourth-and-14 play.
Sticking with the defense, Wooster's line overwhelmed Ohio Wesleyan at the fourth quarter's onset. Senior Marcus Bowers blew past his man into the backfield and brought Harville down near midfield on a third-down play in the first minute of the final stanza.
On Ohio Wesleyan's next offensive play, first-year Kellen Calhoun made his presence felt with a strip sack near midfield, and senior Hunter Coia fell on the pigskin.
After punting the ball away, Wooster's defense went back to work and had Ohio Wesleyan facing a third-and-19 after back-to-back sacks. Calhoun knocked Harville to the turf on the second-down play for his second sack of the game.
That forced Ohio Wesleyan into a punting situation, and Wooster's offense was driving the ball before a 10-play, 63-yard drive was derailed by a Mateo Renteria fumble inside the red zone that kick-started Ohio Wesleyan's go-ahead drive.
Wooster's lone score of the day was a 15-yard Renteria-to-Jacob Lewis touchdown, and the Scots led 7-6 with 4:41 to go in the opening half after sophomore Henry Whyte chipped through the extra point.
Outside of Lewis' 15-yard reception and a 23-yard catch by junior Nick Strausbaugh, Wooster was kept in check by Ohio Wesleyan all afternoon, as the Scots logged 312 yards of total offense. Pollard did his part on special teams to try to jump start the offense by zig-zagging a pair of punt returns a combined 45 yards upfield, but the Scots were unable to capitalize on his sparks.
Renteria, who entered the game in relief on the second offensive series, completed 18-of-24 throws for 162 yards and the score. Strausbaugh caught six passes for 84 yards, while Bailey logged 31 offensive touches for 122 yards (69 rushing, 53 receiving).
Defensively, Bowers and Brown led the way from their interior line positions with a combined 14 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, and four sacks.
Harville completed 24-of-38 passes for 216 yards, while Trey Dixon led Ohio Wesleyan on the ground with 11 carries for 40 yards.
Defensively, Ohio Wesleyan's Cody Streit recorded a game-high 11 tackles.
Noteworthy, a 31-3 win over Kenyon College on November 5, 2011 marked the last time Wooster didn't allow a touchdown in a game.
Next, Wooster hosts DePauw University (1-1, 1-0 NCAC) on Black and Gold Weekend. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22.